BELOW THE BOTTOM RUNG- 37
But the dinner party is not a success. Why ? Because the Pandit
cannot eat. Why ? We shall see.
B------had taken a great deal of trouble about this dinner. He
knew that the Pandit was a vegetarian, and so he provided only
fruit; moreover, he chose only such fruits as Nature had ensured
from outside pollution, such as oranges and bananas. And he had
been even more careful than that. He had bought on entirely new
dinner service; for he was aware that if the Pandit were asked to
eat off a plate which might once have had meat on it, the worst
would happen. The Pandit would be horrified beyond measure;
he would never feel clean again.
So there we are. Fresh fruit, covered with thick skins. New
plates, never used before. Old gentleman, anxious to please host,
staring at banana or whatever it is.
All to n,o avail. He cannot eat the banana. Sometime, some-
where, somehow, somebody might have touched something, and
made it unclean. He dare not risk it. He is a brave old man but
he is not as brave as all that. So the demands of courtesy must
be set aside. The dinner, we repeat, was not a success.
This story has been told flippantly, because at first sight it falls
into the category of farce. But is it entirely farcial ? Malaviya,
at the time, was leader of Congress. He was, and still is, one of
the most powerful personalities in India. He is the sort of man
who, if and when India gains independence, will help to represent
his country at international conferences. To put it mildly, his
extreme orthodoxy may tend to slow up the business of the day.
Supposing that we translate this situation into Western terms*
Imagine a conference between Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin and
Chiang Kai-Shek on orthodox Hindu lines. What would happen ?
Well—most of them would be popping in and out of the bath-
room during the greater part of the proceedings. Churchill
would sign a document with the same pen as Roosevelt and would
rush to have a sfiower. Stalin would inadvertently drink a cup of
tea handed him by Chiang Kai-Shek and hurry away to gargle*
Roosevelt would constantly be calling for a flit spray, and if
^anybody ever got any business done it would be such a miracle
that half the war debt would have to be sacrificed on the altar of